Friday, September 04, 2009

FLEETWOOD MAC - WELLINGTON, NZ 1980 (WORST CONCERT EVER) Opinion Piece

In my opinion: Bad memories of Mac remain
By Grant Harding
Hawke's Bay Today

WHEN friends gather, and the conversation turns to rock music it will eventually swing around to the best concert ever seen.

My pick would be Bob Marley and the Wailers at Auckland's Western Springs in 1979: great atmosphere, great performance - an artist at his peak. Yes, it could have been longer, but Bob and the Wailers delivered.

There are other categories.

The one you don't remember - George Thorogood and the Destroyers in Palmerston North. Don't ask.

Then there's the worst concert ever.

You probably wouldn't guess who gets my top billing in that category in a million years.

A clue: they're coming back in December, and their tickets for a one-off concert go on sale Monday.

That's right - supergroup Fleetwood Mac.

It was March 1980 in Wellington, and they were riding high on Rumours (1977) and the recently released Tusk. But in true rock fashion that wasn't all they were riding high on and the state of their personal relationships - four of the band members had once made two happily married couples - was chaotic.

That concert has been on my mind lately because of a couple of texts sent to Hawke's Bay Today bemoaning the Mission's Motown act, and the inability to get an act like the Mac.

It brought a sly grin to the face as I remembered back to the debacle that night at Athletic Park.

I know Mick Fleetwood has written about it, but the best reference I could find on the internet was the following passage: "(Lindsey) Buckingham finally succumbed to the curse of Fleetwood Mac guitarists.

"At one show in New Zealand, as (Stevie) Nicks sang Rhiannon he pulled his jacket over his head and began performing a grotesque imitation of her. Christine McVie slapped him. 'I might have chucked a glass of wine over him, too,' she says. 'I didn't think that was the way to treat a paying audience'."

I suspect that incident came just before the band left the stage to temporarily sort out their differences so the show could go on.

Legendary New Zealand bluesman Hammond Gamble and his band, Street Talk, was the support act that night and they had played superbly.

As Fleetwood Mac deteriorated in front of our eyes, I remember a chant starting up: "Bring back Street Talk." I joined in.

I gave Hammond a call this week to check that my memory hadn't faded. It hadn't - his had. "Are you sure it wasn't earlier than 1980?" he said down the phone from Auckland.

But he remembered the important stuff.

"They were arguing among themselves," he said. "We were told to leave them alone and don't get near them."

Hammond said the gig that followed at Western Springs was a good concert but Wellington was most definitely "meltdown night".

After their team meeting, Fleetwood Mac did return to the stage and Nicks used all of her considerable charm in an attempt to win the crowd over and prove she was the rock goddess we had come to see.

Somehow, though, it was forced. And 29 years later as the band, minus the delightful Christine McVie, prepare for their first New Zealand concert since that fateful March, it remains my worst live rock experience.

On that night, despite my liking for their music and lusting for Nicks, personal problems won out over the band's reputation and ability.

That is well behind them and there is nothing to suggest they will be anything but great in New Plymouth.

But, dear text messagers, there is no need to build up the Mac to put down the Mission.

From what I have observed of The Mission concert crowds, they are at their happiest when they can sing along. And when I hit www.missionconcert.co.nz yesterday there was immediate responsiveness and movement in the office as the Temptations Get Ready blasted out of my computer.

If that was a taster, it will be a good night in the Bay come February 13.

But by all means spend your bucks on a drive to New Plymouth where Stevie, Lindsey, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood could never be as bad again as they were in Wellington 29 years ago.

* Grant Harding is APN's Columnist of the Year.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was just looking on the net to find out what year it was. I was there and was so disappointed as were the other 15 or so friends I was with. Has taken me a long time to listen to them again after the Appalling concert, such a shame

Cheri

Anonymous said...

Hey, every time they come back to NZ I think of that bad concert in Wellies. Yes we felt cheated, though Nicks return to the stage to sing for awhile made up a bit for that BIG disappointment.
Anne

DerekPool said...

I was at that concert and remember people saying it was not very good. I was near the back and didn't notice. I thought it was a great night...

Unknown said...

I was 14, at boarding school (and thoroughly miserable about that) when 'Rumours' came out in 1977. It was the first album I'd heard since 'Dark Side of the Moon' in which every track was an absolute winner. I was 17 when they performed at Athletic Park and being a muso myself appreciate that there are good gigs and bad gigs - for whatever reasons. I was simply intrigued by the Mac that night, I found the whole thing incredibly entertaining. Bob Dylan (at Athletic Park 5 or 6 years later) was worse. He snarled, was rude...very bad form. Similarly to Hammond, the crowd were chanting for Tom Petty to return to the stage! I have no regrets about seeing the Mac that night...one of the true highlights of my life!!

Unknown said...

For some strange reason Rathkeale Coledge for Boys sent us to that concert aged 16 in our werid school uniforms,it was an eye opening expirence and great fun,But yes the Band was rubbish that night and Tusk which wasnt their best Album played badly just crap I'm afraid.However Steve Nicks was every school boys dream so that was a win of sorts.

Marushka said...

I was there and i didn't notice, I remember having a great time. Atmosphere and crowd was amazing, I thought.

American girl said...

I went to that concert in Wellington, NZ with my boyfriend from Rathkeale College. I was a 16 year old AFS student from Minnesota, USA during the year 1980 in Masterton, NZ. So excited to go to a concert of a band that I loved with my boyfriend who made my year in NZ fun. I was not happy with the band conflicting since I was so looking forward to attending the concert in a different country. I was so young and we had fun anyway.

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